Seniors prepare to enter religious life
Mary Steurer | Friday, May 18, 2018
Senior Tyler Duffy, an aerospace engineering major, said he hadn’t given much thought to the priesthood before his junior year.
Now, he plans to enter Moreau Seminary as a postulant in the fall.
Duffy said he became interested in religious life when he began diving deeper into his faith.
“I’m a firm believer that as you start praying more, God reveals your vocation for you,” he said. “I’m an engineering student — I never really thought I’d be going down this path, but here I am.”
When Duffy first considered entering the seminary, he reached out to trusted friends and local religious figures for advice.
“It was a long discernment process,” he said.
Duffy said attending Notre Dame played a significant role in his decision to join the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
“[The Congregation of the] Holy Cross has really formed me spiritually,” he said. “I’ve really grown in my faith during my time here.”
Senior Matthew Gambetta will also be entering Moreau Seminary this fall.
Gambetta said he came to Notre Dame already considering the priesthood and hopes seminary life will help him continue the discernment process.
“It’s always been one of those things in the back of my mind,” he said. “If priesthood is my true vocation, I want to dedicate as much of my life as possible constructing that vocation.”
The lifestyle of the Holy Cross priests resonated with Gambetta and led him to join the religious order.
“The initial reason I picked Holy Cross was because of the men who serve in the order,” he said.“They’re young men who are truly passionate about their faith, but at the same time they’re ordinary guys.”
Gambetta said he also identified strongly with the Holy Cross mission.
“The other thing I appreciate about [the Congregation of the] Holy Cross is the educational mission,” he said. “[Blessed Basil Moreau] was very conscious of providing catechesis to ordinary folk in the French countryside and it’s a mission that still carries a great deal of weight today.”
Gambetta said those interested in seminary life must undergo an extensive application process.
“It’s the seminary itself that extends the application to you,” he said. “Usually they won’t offer it to you until you’ve done your informal visit and gotten to familiarize yourself with the community.”
Fr. Neil Wack, director of vocations for the US province of the Congregation of Holy Cross and resident of Moreau Seminary, said the intent of the application process is to encourage individuals to explore their faith journey.
The application includes several short-answer questions as well as the opportunity for applicants to write their “spiritual biography,” Wack said.
“We give them five or six very broad questions to just go back over their life and figure out where God has been in their life,” he said.
Applicants must also complete a series of interviews with Holy Cross priests and lay people, Wack said.
The interviews help ensure prospective members are a good fit for life at the seminary, Gambetta said.
“The [application] process is a very rigorous vetting process,” he said. “They want to be absolutely sure that this is an individual who cares about the Holy Cross community and the Holy Cross mission.”
Gambetta said he anticipates his first year as a postulant will be “a bit of a change.”
“I’ll still be taking classes here, but beyond that, my entire life will be focusing around time at the seminary as well as ministry placements,” he said.
During their first year at the seminary, Wack said, postulants typically study philosophy in pursuit of their Master of Divinity degree and begin local volunteer work.
“They’re starting to get involved in ministry,” he said.
Seminarians are often placed in local Catholic communities, such as in Campus Ministry or nearby parishes.
Wack said he advises those considering the priesthood to be active in their faith.
“Pray every day, go to Mass,” he said. “Kinda dip your toe in the water as far as ministry goes. Make sure you have a spiritual director, someone you can talk with about discernment.”
Duffy said he encourages others to be open about the discernment process with friends and family.
“Talk about it with as many people as you can,” he said.
He added that for those who feel called to religious life, pursuing the vocation wholeheartedly is key.
“The most comforting thing for me was knowing that God has our ultimate happiness in mind, and he’s planted that in our vocation,” Duffy said.